You’ve probably read a great deal on why the introduction is the most crucial part in your presentation. It has two important purposes: to gain the audience’s attention and to motivate them to listen.
What if you failed to meet these key elements from the very beginning? Don’t compromise your speech credibility and brand reputation.
Break the bad introduction habits and start your presentations effectively.
Here are five blunders that you should avoid:
1. Going Mainstream
A good majority of presenters begin their talk with, “Good morning. I’m here to discuss x, y, and z.” But this heavy-handed and dull approach is a quick way to lose your audience.
Why go mainstream if there are many creative ways to begin your discussion? Plan for something unique to impress everyone at the very beginning of your speech.
Tell a story or borrow a pertinent movie quote that complements your main idea. Let this perk up your listeners enough for them to say to themselves, “That line was from the movie xyz!”
Asking a rhetorical question also works in engaging your audience. It invites them to think about your arguments, making them active participants in your speech.
Another powerful way to open a presentation is by sharing relevant data that either look to the past or the future. Drop an idea like: “In ancient times, women’s status were defined by their relationship to men. At present, women have become more independent and are now making names in the business world.”
The comparison will make the audience perceive the topic in a new light and hook them further to your pitch.
2. Doing Equipment Checks
Checking if the equipment works exactly before you begin your pitch is another common pitfall in presentations. Although doing equipment checks is a good practice for speakers, it can become a bad habit when it eats up both yours and your audience’s time.
To avoid falling victim to this gaffe, arrive early at the venue and set-up the equipment few minutes ahead the presentation time. This gives you enough buffer in familiarizing yourself with the equipment and in running compatibility tests.
You don’t want the audience to see you rambling while troubleshooting technical problems. Make it a rule to check all the equipment even before your presentation starts. If possible, have an emergency back-up readily available.
3. Questioning People’s Ability
Presenters often make the mistake of starting by asking obvious questions that border on offending their listeners.
Posing questions to your audience can be a good start, but questions that insult their intelligence damage your reputation as a speaker.
Queries with obvious answers like “Do you know how to double up your sales?” or “Is there anyone here who earns more and works less?” are a few unasked for statements that can make your listeners cry tears of frustration.
According to Stanford GSB lecturer Matt Abrahams, ask questions that stimulate curiosity instead. Questions that inquire about a possible future or historical past are great alternatives to the obvious ones.
For example, “What would it be like if robots outnumbered the human population?” Here, the “What if” effect builds intrigue and gets your audience attention. Utilize the same refreshing tactic in waking up your audience.
4. Oversharing Company History
Sharing your company history at the beginning of your speech can be good at establishing credibility. However, doing this more than you should only consumes the time needed in explaining your main ideas.
Similar to talking about yourself, it can come across as bragging, which can make you lose your audience quickly. Your presentation isn’t about you, so it’s best to focus more about what you can offer to them.
The ideal way to impart your company history is by touching a part of it in the middle of your discussion. Look back and share a blast from the past on how you achieved and sustained long-term success.
This not only makes your listeners buy your idea, but also helps in making yourself worthy of their trust and money.
5. Admitting Mistakes
Starting with an apology weakens your credibility and sets the wrong tone.
After all, why would people listen to the rest of your speech if you spent your first few minutes apologizing? You’re only attracting a negative vibe, which kills the chance of leaving a positive impression.
If your discussion is facing inevitable hurdles such as scheduling delays, incompatibility of slides and poor room set-up, handle it with grace and don’t call attention to negatives.
However, there are rare cases where delivering a quick, sincere apology may be in your favor.
The key is to act decisively without affecting your message negatively.
The Takeaway: Start Your Speech Right!
The introduction builds up the overall flow of a pitch. It does a lot of work in making good impression and in keeping people interested throughout the presentation. Unfortunately, there are instances where some speakers lose their audience because of poor introductions. Avoid their fate and steer clear of intro blunders that derail your professional image.
Stay away from the mainstream self-introductions. Instead, think of creative alternatives like sharing a story, citing a movie quote, and asking rhetorical questions. Never do equipment checks at the beginning of your talk. It’s recommended to perform technical tests few minutes before your actual speech.
Avoid asking questions that can insult your audience. Go for questions that drive curiosity and interest. Sharing company history is another taboo. Focus more in discussing what you can do for them.
Lastly, don’t start with an apology. Keep your cool and maintain an upbeat tone even you’re under pressure.
Avoid these four blunders to gain and retain your audience’s attention from the beginning till the end. Looking for presentations with lasting impact? Talk to the right people and get started now.
Abrahams, Matt. “Matt Abrahams: A Good Question Can Be the Key to a Successful Presentation.” Stanford Business. July 25, 2014. Accessed May 27, 2015. www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/matt-abrahams-good-question-can-be-key-successful-presentation